Jonathan Ferrell, a former safety at Florida A&M, was shot and killed by North Carolina police early Saturday morning, apparently after seeking help after a car accident. Ferrell was unarmed, and the officer who fired the fatal shots has been charged with manslaughter.
What happened on Saturday around 2 a.m. remains unclear. The public version of events comes from a press conference given by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief on Saturday, before the officer was charged. He said Ferrell crashed his car into an embankment in northeast Mecklenburg County. He climbed out the back window of his mangled car, and walked about a quarter-mile to a house visible from the accident scene.
There, according to police chief Rodney Monroe's initial statement, Ferrell started "banging on the door viciously." The woman who lived there believed he was a robber, and dialed 911. Three officers responded and encountered Ferrell near the home. Ferrell "immediately ran toward the officers," according to a police statement.
One officer fired his taser, and officer Randall Kerrick, who's been on the force since 2011, fired his gun, striking Ferrell "multiple times." Ferrell died at the scene.
Police initially described the encounter as "appropriate and lawful," but on Saturday night changed course.
The police investigation found “the shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive,” authorities said in a statement late Saturday. “Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter.”
Ferrell, 24, played two seasons for the Rattlers in 2009-10, and moved to Charlotte in February, family members told the Observer. He had just gotten engaged, and was working two jobs, at Best Buy and Dillard's.
Friends and teammates described Ferrell as quiet and intensely devoted to his younger brother, with whom he played football in high school and college. Earl Holmes, his head coach at FAMU, was shocked when he heard the news.
"I was saddened when they told me.” Holmes said. “They told me he was murdered. I said, ‘What? Murder? That doesn’t sound like him. Not the Jonathan I remembered.’ The Jonathan I remembered was a soft-spoken kid, quiet and to himself."
Ferrell's family has hired Florida attorney Christopher Chestnut, who represented Robert Champion, the FAMU drum major who died in a 2011 hazing incident. "If Mr. Ferrell was not black or brown," Chestnut said, "wouldn’t [police] have asked him a few questions before showering him with bullets?" Ferrell's family is expected to hold a press conference later today.